A pair of late goals consigned Cheltenham Town to a narrow defeat in the first round of the Capital One Cup in Brighton.
The Robins more than matched the Championship side in an attritional match on the south coast, but one lapse of concentration 11 minutes from time cost them dearly on their first visit to the hugely impressive American Express Community Stadium.
Defender Lewis Dunk took the opportunity, heading his side into a late lead before Craig Mackail-Smith added the seal on victory on the stroke of time.
The facilities at this fantastic venue are light years away from the Seagull’s previous residence at the Withdean Stadium, their home for 12 years before last season’s inaugural campaign here and the home support were quick to show their appreciation for the effort by Mark Yates' side tonight.
There were 164 Cheltenham supporters inside this fantastic stadium, most of which have already racked up almost 600 miles on the road in the first four days of the campaign, and they were also warmly applauded by the home faithful for their effort tonight.
The manager made two changes, replacing the Asa Hall with Joe Hanks, Saturday’s match-winner who performed so well in place of the injured midfielder in the victory at Bury.
Jack Deaman came in for his first senior start at the expense of Matt Taylor, who was sidelined as a precaution with two tough League Two matches on the horizon, and was parachuted in between Troy Brown and Steve Elliott at the back.
Yates kept faith with the 3-5-2 formation he used at Gigg Lane and it served him well again, restricting the Seagulls to a handful of half-chances all evening bar the late goals.
Former Liverpool stalwart Sami Hyypia, who moved to the south coast from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, deployed a top-heavy 4-1-2-3 shape and looked to his side to atone for their disappointing home reverse at the weekend to Sheffield Wednesday.
His side enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening exchanges and it was Adam Chicksen, from 20 yards, who fashioned the first real chance of note although it missed the left upright by a matter of inches.
Brighton’s shape often saw them left with two at the back, with the full backs getting forward at every opportunity and on one occasion Inigo Calderon, the Spanish right back, went close to converting Craig Mackail-Smith’s low ball from the right, although Troy Brown did enough to deflect the effort wide.
Carson, the skipper for the night, was alert to Chris O’Grady’s glancing header mid-way through the first half after Bruno, the former Valencia defender, had swung one in from the right.
Kemy Agustien and O’Grady saw chances to put their side in the lead after the interval although Carson was never truly tested while at the other end, Harrison went down in the penalty area although a penalty award would have been harsh on Brighton.
Both sides freshened things up with a little under 25 minutes remaining with Andy Haworth replacing Terry Gornell and Kazenga LuaLua giving the home side a lift in place of Agustien.
The decisive moment arrived 11 minutes from time following a fine tackle by Hanks to prevent the Albion substitute taking a shot on goal.
The Congolese winger, brother of former Newcastle striker Lomana, delivered the following corner kick to the far post where Dunk met it with a firm header to beat Carson.
The goal handed the home side the impetus they were lacking all evening and doubled their lead in the final minute when Mackail-Smith raced onto LuaLua's threaded ball before finishing under Carson from 18 yards.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION (4-1-2-3):
Stockdale; Calderon, Dunk, Greer (c), Forster-Caskey; Ince; Bruno, Chicksen (Maksimenko 90); Agustien, Mackail-Smith, O’Grady (Fenelon 90). Subs not used: Ankergren (Gk), Hughes, Toko, Harris.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (3-5-2):
Carson (c); Deaman, Brown, Elliott; Vaughan, Hanks (Sterling-James 87), J Taylor, Richards, Braham-Barrett; Gornell (Haworth 66), Harrison. Subs not used: Reynolds (Gk), Kotwica, Black, Arthur, Dale.
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